The work of Sylvia Laks possesses a certain mystical quality that captures the viewer. Looking at her stained and painted glass is akin to a supernatural event, such as gazing into a crystal ball or seeing the future in a magical river. Sheer beauty and mystery draws you in; the search for truth inspires in-depth study.
Laks lives and works high in the mountains of Heredia, Costa Rica, 5,500 feet above sea level in a beautiful, peaceful area surrounded by trees and vegetation. She and husband, Enrique, have a home and two-story studio on the same property, surrounded by many flowers. An extremely versatile artist, Laks takes on all kinds of commissions covering every theme possible, from ornamental jobs created in stained glass to elaborate, fully painted portraits – her forte.
Catholic church commissions comprise about 30 percent of the studio’s work, and the remaining 70 percent is the creation of new windows. Twelve artisans work for Sylvia and Enrique regularly, and they have trained a stable of eight additional artists they can call upon when needed, such as during the creation of fully painted windows for the main Catholic Seminary in Costa Rica.
Laks has also been commissioned to create glass art for government institutions such as Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (an institution that takes care of abandoned children), Albergue de la Mujer Agredida (an institution that provides shelter for battered women), and the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Costa Rica (which approves all constructions in the country), in addition to many hotels and residential commissions.
Most of her autonomous panels have been commissioned by private galleries and for private homes in Germany, the US, and Costa Rica. Laks shows her work at her own permanent gallery and also at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano’s art gallery, which is part of the USA Embassy and the State Department.
Recognition of Laks’ work in the US began in June 2010 when she won First Place in the Stained Glass Association of America’s (SGAA) annual conference exhibition, becoming the first non-American to ever receive this peer-voted award. Laks’ winning piece, Faces 1, depicts the eldest artisan at her studio prior to his retirement. “I felt unbelievably surprised winning this award. I was further excited because very few people in Costa Rica consider stained glass a medium of artistic expression.”
In 2011 Laks’ studio became the first international studio ever accepted as a fully accredited member of the SGAA. This was the result of an intense one-year process, in which then SGAA president, Jack Whitworth, traveled to Costa Rica with his wife Cindy to inspect the studio and its commissions.
Laks’ panel, Calamity, appeared on the spring 2011 cover of Stained Glass Quarterly. This piece speaks about the sadness of several international events through its images of Muslim terrorists, armies, Osama bin Laden, and George W. Bush. “For me, the most painful feelings are inspired by the children who lost their lives. This is happening so often in today’s world. I try to express these feelings in my paintings. I feel uncomfortable with the lack of meaning in what is considered art today. This is a reflection of our modern society.”